Hundreds of people packed a meeting in Calgary on Tuesday night to hear a government official explain funding cuts to a developmental disability program.
The province is cutting $42 million from the budget, shifting funds away from a community access program, which helps get people out in the community through volunteer and recreational activities.
The province is also putting $2 million into workforce-oriented programs — with the hope to get more people with developmental disabilities working, and changing how it decides what funding individuals get.
An organization that works with developmentally-delayed adults supports the idea of getting more clients into the workforce, but has some doubts about whether the provincial government can do it correctly.
"Taking $42 million out of the system at the same time as you're trying to achieve greater employment [and] more individualized community participation ... just doesn't add up," said Bill Forman of the Progressive Alternatives Society of Calgary.
"You can't both transform a system and gut its funding at the same time. It just doesn't work."
Families concerned about effects
The looming changes have left families of Albertans with developmental disabilities wondering how they will be affected. But at Tuesday’s meeting, there were assurances that clients who need the most help will still get it.
Rosemary Canuel's 21-year-old son lives in a group home and has a care worker who takes him to activities.
She said she now feels reassured he will continue to get that help.
"Given that our son needs help bathing, eating, dressing, cannot go out in the community on his own. It sounds like the money will be taken from individuals with more independence."
Tony Weisgerber has a 28-year-old son who needs some community support, but who also works. He said the cuts threaten to upset his son’s sense of routine, something that’s crucial for the well-being of many similarly disabled people.
"That makes them really, really upset. It takes quite a while to get them back on track again."
The government is planning more information sessions and Frank Oberle, associate minister of services for persons with disabilities, will tour the province to explain the cuts.